What the Stars Saw on the Prairie

“After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.”

— Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)
from The Rest is Noise

When my paternal grandmother passed away suddenly and unexpectedly in December 2005, I had recently moved to Chicago and was unable to travel back to Louisiana to attend her services. Having been Jason, his father, and his grandmotherdenied the chance to say goodbye was probably what sharpened my grief the most.

Her bear hugs were now out of reach, but it was a comfort to know our hearts could still communicate across any distance. She lived her whole life in Louisiana, rarely traveling more than 2 hours from home. Now freed from her earthly entanglements, I envisioned her flying effortlessly with her angel wings all the way to Chicago to say goodbye — a beautiful, healing journey before rising to take her place in the stars to watch over us.

A few years later, I was listening to music in my cubicle at work when I suddenly realized I was holding back tears. From an album entitled “A Handfull of Quietness” by Kathleen Ryan, a piano solo named What the Stars Saw on the Prairie instantly brought me back to that vision of my grandmother’s journey. I bought the mp3 and listened to it frequently; each time, it brought more comfort to me.


Eventually, I decided to take a bold step and try to perform this piece. I went to Kathleen’s website, but to my dismay the sheet music was not offered. Checking back several times over the course of a year, I finally built up the courage to write to her personally to ask for the music:

    “… For some reason — perhaps the combination of the sound of this piece and its programmatic title — this music brings me back to that time when I had to reconcile the death of a close loved one with the knowledge that she would still be looking down on me from above. It’s a very healing piece for me, personally. Her powerful but gentle presence, I feel, is within those harmonies you put together. If you could please consider releasing the sheet music someday, I’d be very grateful.”

To my delight and surprise, Kathleen wrote back the very same day:

    “Thank you so much for your very kind words. I am very touched that you find What the Stars Saw on the Prairie to be healing and to be a reminder of your grandmother. It is a very special piece for me, too, possibly my favorite of everything I’ve created. “Powerful but gentle” is indeed what that piece means to me; your grandmother must have been someone quite special.

    … I’m just lazy about writing music down (happily I have a good memory!) and What the Stars Saw on the Prairie is just complex enough that I haven’t faced it yet. But since I know you would like to play it, I’ll make it the next one to be notated, how’s that?”

And so began a very meaningful collaboration with Kathleen. She wrote to me, occasionally, giving me updates on her progress of notating the piece. A rather Jason McKinneybig complication arose when just a few months after we got in touch she broke her left wrist and was unable to play for some time. Being unable able to play, notating it became impossible.

Thankfully, Kathleen persevered. Then, when the music was finally in front of me, I became faced with a tall task of my own: learning what turned out to be quite a complex piano solo — the most technically-challenging piece I’d ever attempted to play! Learning to perform it became another way of connecting with the music and with my grandmother’s memory. It took over a year, but I eventually got up the nerve to perform it for a small home recital in 2013.

Honestly, I figured this was the end of my relationship with this piece of music: I’d faced the challenge and successfully performed it. But, when I began compiling pieces for this year’s Winter Songs & Carols concert with the theme of “grief, loss, healing, & renewal” in mind, I gradually came upon the idea of arranging Kathleen’s piece for winds and piano. I saw it as an opportunity to draw out even more of the colors What the Stars Saw on the PrairieKathleen had put into the work while reconnecting with the deep meaning the piece holds for me.

I wrote to her to explain my idea, and she kindly consented to let me tinker with her creation. Over the course of a few weeks, we passed drafts of the score back and forth until we were both pleased. The new arrangement is now officially available for sale (an exciting first for me), and will have its premiere at our concert this December!

I’m deeply grateful to Kathleen for her support and generosity during this entire experience: it’s no trivial matter to turn your music over to someone else’s imagination! I’m also grateful to Manitou Manitou WindsWinds. Rehearsing this has been an intense, emotional delight; their musicianship bringing these lines to life.

Collaborating for this project reminded me what little control we have as composers, arrangers, and musicians over the effect our music will have on each listener — and how wonderful it is to not have control of that! Music reaches out to each of us in unique and surprising ways, touching our hearts even amidst times of grief when words remain hopelessly out of reach.

Listening for Silence

In our annual winter concert, Manitou Winds presents

a program of music, poetry, and prose

inspiring you to embrace winter.

Embracing winter can be tricky for some of us as it tends to arrive on our doorstep with a significant amount of baggage, doesn’t it? As the days grow shorter and the weather becomes a daily challenge, we tend to spend a bit more time indoors ruminating over another year almost gone. Suddenly we’re also faced with the holidays — bringing a host of traditions, obligations, and (perhaps like Ebenezer Scrooge) “ghosts” from the past.

Finding the ability to embrace winter requires us to venture somewhere beyond the reaches of our comfort zone (or at least what presently seems comfortable). We have to step away from the inviting warmth of the fireplace, out-of-range of the familiar, hypnotic hum of our modern gadgetry. We have to shut out the ceaseless chatter of 24-hour news, the invasive ads, the mountainous junk mail, the screens of e-mails … Winter invites us outdoors to find a silence hard to find in our 365-days-of-summer lifestyles. In our harried world, could there be a sound more profound than silence?

    Winter Uplands


    The frost that stings like fire upon my cheek,
    The loneliness of this forsaken ground,
    The long white drift upon whose powdered peak
    I sit in the great silence as one bound;
    The rippled sheet of snow where the wind blew
    Across the open fields for miles ahead;
    The far-off city towered and roofed in blue
    A tender line upon the western red;
    The stars that singly, then in flocks appear,
    Like jets of silver from the violet dome,
    So wonderful, so many and so near,
    And then the golden moon to light me home–
    The crunching snowshoes and the stinging air,
    And silence, frost, and beauty everywhere.
    — Archibald Lampman (1861-1899)

Canadian poet Archibald Lampman grew up in the countryside but spent much of his adult years in cities, only visiting the country for extended trips. He found simplicity and grace in the natural world when urban life proved to be utterly dehumanizing. An avid hiker and camper in the wilds of Ontario, Lampman’s poems are awash in sounds and imagery from nature and all four seasons.

Sadly, his life was cut short by a heart weakened by rheumatic fever; he died at 37. In his short life, however, he IMG_7345wandered along the banks and fields finding wonder in nature’s ordinary beauty. Even later in life, beset with sorrow from the sudden death of his infant son, he found solace in nature and the cycle of its seasons.

    “The evening deepens, and the gray
    Folds closer earth and sky;
    The world seems shrouded far away;
    Its noises sleep, and I,
    As secret as yon buried stream,
    Plod dumbly on, and dream.”

    — from “Snow”, by Archibald Lampman

Celtic-New Age composer, Loreena McKennitt, set Lampman’s poem “Snow” to music for her 1987 album To Drive the Cold Winter Away. For our first-ever Winter Songs & Carols performance in 2015, I created an arrangement for piccolo, flute, clarinet, bassoon, lever harp, and soprano. Because the lyrics speak so perfectly to this year’s theme of peace, healing, and renewal, we’re dusting off the arrangement IMG_6154and are excited to perform it featuring Emily Curtin Culler, soprano.

Lampman’s poetic lines, McKennitt’s lyrical music, and the colorful combination of winds, harp, and Emily’s beautiful voice combine to create a heartwarming invitation to embrace winter as a welcome guest. Within winter’s blustery cold and hush lies a peaceful space to find quiet and time to dream.

We hope you’ll join us, this December, for an inspiring evening of music, poetry, and prose exploring the season of winter.

Variety: It’s the Spice!

Our September 24th concert was an experiment: a test to see just how much variety could be crammed into a single concert program performed by a single ensemble. To up the ante, we also added an element of chance; allowing the audience to play a game to randomly select the concert order.

Twelve different instruments and one guest musician later (Eric Olson, alto & tenor saxophone), we wound up with a concert that ran the gamut from Handel and Mozart to Hoagy Carmichael and Stevie Wonder! Here’s a list of the selections in the order they were performed:

Overture from “The Barber of Seville”           G. Rossini/arr. B. Holcombe
flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, & bassoon

Playground           H.A. Curtis
piano solo

Contradanza from “Three Pieces for Clarinet & Piano”           P. D’Rivera
tenor saxophone

I. Allegro from “Horn Quintet in E-flat Major”, K. 407           W.A. Mozart/arr. B. Holcombe
flute, english horn, clarinet, horn, & bassoon

Royal Garden Blues           C. Williams & S. Williams/arr. Ken Abeling
flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, & bassoon

Sir Duke           S. Wonder/arr. J.T. McKinney
flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, & bassoon

The Nearness of You           H. Carmichael
tenor saxophone & piano

III. Brazileira from “Scaramouche”           D. Milhaud/arr. D. Stewart
piccolo, flute, oboe, clarinet, alto saxophone, horn, & bassoon

Ancient Pines           L. McKennitt/arr. J.T. McKinney
flute, clarinet, & lever harp

I. Natalie Fraser (hornpipe) from “A Suite of Cape Breton Tunes”           J.T. McKinney
flute, clarinet, & lever harp

Summer Waltz           L. Hood
flute, clarinet, guitar, & lever harp

Cranberry Island           D. Tolk
piano solo

Overture from “Music for the Royal Fireworks”           G.F. Handel/arr. T. Cramer
flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, & bassoon

To facilitate this colorful program based purely on variety and fun, we enlisted the aid of Jan Ross (aka Janice B.), voice-over artist, and our production manager, James Deaton (aka. J.D), to co-host the concert as a game show. Janice B. and J.D. selected audience members at random to come forward and randomly select the concert order. Those audience members were then entered into a special prize pool for a chance to win one of three prizes.

Adding even more flair to the event, we were joined by guest artist, Lori Feldpausch, who brought a dazzling array of paintings from her home studio to create an elaborate exhibit in the church’s narthex.

We were honored to be a part of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church’s “Concert on the Hill” series, and we’re delighted to have played a part in raising funds for Habitat for Humanity of Benzie County and Northwest Michigan Supportive Housing.

Dolce e Delizioso III

Dolce e DeliziosoIn our final recipe collection in the Theme & Variations series, we’ll play sweetly in the kitchen; calling upon a single versatile cake recipe to deliver an array of tempting treats fit for finishing a meal or rounding out a special occasion.

Dolce e Delizioso

I really hope you’ve enjoyed following along as we’ve taken the Classical form of “Theme & Variations” into the kitchen — making simple changes to recipes to create exciting new dishes. Marrying food and music — two of my most favorite things — is something of a passion of mine.

To demonstrate the Classical form that inspired this series, here’s probably one of the finest examples of Theme & Variation form: Mozart’s 12 Variations in C major on Ah! vous dirai-je, Maman, K.265. The theme you’ll immediately recognize; in America, we know this tune as “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” Listen to all the ways Mozart turned this simple tune on its ear. By the end, it’s barely recognizable!

As you can see, performing a piece in Theme & Variations form — while exhilarating — can be quite demanding for a musician. Fortunately, our culinary spin on this form has been both fun and delicious for both the chef (the musician) and the tasters (the audience).

In today’s final variation in our Dolce e Delizioso collection, we take one more layer of that easy-to-make butter cake and turn it into a decadent layered dessert marrying its buttery flavors with toffee and coffee to make a fancy treat that can be made into elegant individual servings or an impressive presentation in a trifle dish.


Toffee-Coffee Trifle
Serves 8
Trifles make an exciting dessert because their layered presentation and variety of textures offer a different experience in every bite. With ample chilling time, the toffee pieces maintain a bit of crunch, but yield a caramel-odius counterpoint to the coffee and buttery flavors in the rest of the dessert!

Vanilla Custard:
Toffee-Coffee Trifle2 1/4 cups milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1 large egg
3 tablespoons corn starch
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Whipped Cream:
1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

Layer Ingredients:
1 8-inch layer of Golden Butter Cake
(recipe here)
1/2 cup Kahlúa (coffee liqueur)
1 cup crushed toffee pieces (e.g. Skor or Heath)

To make the vanilla custard: heat the milk, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stirring to dissolve sugar, heat until milk is scalded but not boiling. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the egg and corn starch until thoroughly combined. While whisking, slowly add the hot milk mixture; whisk until completely incorporated. Return entire mixture to the saucepan and heat over medium heat until thickened and just beginning to boil; remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap placed on surface to prevent skin from forming. Allow to reach room temperature, then refrigerate 1-2 hours.

To make the whipped cream: pour the cream into a medium bowl. Beat at medium speed until frothy; add confectioners’ sugar, Toffee-Coffee Trifleincrease speed, and whip until stiff peaks form. Cover and chill until needed.

To assemble, slice cake layer into bite-size pieces. In individual containers or in a trifle dish, alternate layers of cake pieces, drizzle cake with Kahlúa, sprinkle with toffee pieces, top with vanilla custard, then whipped cream. You can make as many or as few layers as you like. Chill for about two hours before serving.

Dolce e Delizioso II

Dolce e DeliziosoIn our final recipe collection in the Theme & Variations series, we’ll play sweetly in the kitchen; calling upon a single versatile cake recipe to deliver an array of tempting treats fit for finishing a meal or rounding out a special occasion.

Dolce e Delizioso

When you start with a cake that’s super-easy to make and tastes great, it takes only a little more embellishment to send it way over the top. Today’s variation turns one cake layer into a simple but decadent layer cake sure to please any fans of the classic Moon Pie sandwich cookie: buttery cake layers separated by fluffy marshmallow creme, all enclosed in a shell made of rich chocolate.


Mezzaluna Cake
Serves 6-8
Who knew one cake layer could reach such celestial heights? With a little time in the freezer to anchor the layers into place and align the straight side of the cake, you’ll find the Mezzaluna Layer Cakechocolate coating will cover a multitude of imperfections (not that anyone will notice once they have a taste!).

1 8-inch layer of Golden Butter Cake (recipe here)
1 1/2 cups marshmallow creme
1 cup semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips
4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Using a long serrated knife, split the cake layer into two rounds; leave stacked atop one another. Split the two round layers down the middle to form four semi-circle layers. Place the layers (still arranged as a single round layer) into the freezer for about 10 minutes to firm them up.

Place one of the bottom semi-circles on a cake plate or cardboard round. Stir the marshmallow creme only until it reaches a Mezzaluna Layer Cakefairly spreadable consistency. Spread about a third of the cream onto the cake layer, leaving about 1/4 border all the way around to avoid seeping. Lining up the straight sides as evenly as possible, place a top semi-circle layer over the filling; spread with another third of the marshmallow creme. Continue with remaining cake layers and marshmallow creme. Carefully turn the assembled cake onto its straight side (see photo) and place in the freezer for 15 minutes to firm up the filling and align the layers.

Meanwhile, combine the chocolate chips and butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 20 seconds, stir, and continue Mezzaluna Layer Cakemicrowaving in 10-20 second intervals, stirring between each heating, until mixture is smooth. Remove the cake from the freezer and place it upright. Spread the chocolate glaze over the top and then sides to completely cover (the chocolate will harden and help keep layers and filling in place. Serve slices chilled or at room temperature.

Dolce e Delizioso I

Variety Poster

Our September concert (Variety: It’s the Spice!) is a celebration of musical variety — a daring departure from organization and the expected! The program is a secret, but you may get a few clues from our website and Facebook page in the weeks leading up to the performance. In the meantime, we hope you’ll enjoy a new series of recipes from the Woodwind Gourmet enticing you to embrace variety in the kitchen.

Dolce e Delizioso

Dolce e Delizioso

Even with the myriad elements of musical notation available, composers often add descriptive words to help musicians read between the lines. How each musician interprets these words is as unique and personal as their choice of instrument. One of my favorite words to find in a musical score is dolce which simply asks you to play “sweetly”.

In this final collection of recipes, we’ll play sweetly in the kitchen; calling upon a single versatile cake recipe to deliver an array of tempting treats fit for finishing a meal or rounding out a special occasion.

We’ll start with a golden, buttery theme: butter cake! My first memories of butter cake are thanks to my paternal grandmother who taught me the fine art of adding butter to things! My grandmother always made her cakes from boxed mixes (perish the thought), but I think my simplified recipe would be one that she would have loved to try. There is such a thing as too much butter, of course, and there’s also such a thing as a complicated recipe with too many steps or ingredients. Thankfully, this recipe is the perfect balance of both!

Key ingredientKEY TECHNIQUE: Cutting in Butter — Sadly, many homemade cakes are doomed from the start because the butter was either too soft or too hard (cold) to be creamed with the sugar. In most cake recipes, the softness of the butter affects the entire texture and rise of the cake to follow (not to mention you can also over-mix and cause problems). How soft is too soft?! For this recipe, we soften the butter to room temperature and simply cut it into the dry ingredients, skipping that whole “creaming” step. You won’t miss the extra drama and your cake will turn out perfectly!


Golden Butter Cake
Serves 12-16
If you have room for only one cake recipe in your recipe box, this one deserves the spot: it’s easily made and versatile. With its rich, buttery taste and moist texture, it can serve as the center attraction or take on myriad toppings, fillings, and frostings.

2 cups all-purpose flour (8.5 ounces)Butter Cake
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar (11.5 ounces)
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature (plus more for pans)
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Butter two 8-inch round cake pans, line bottoms with parchment rounds, butter parchment lightly; dust pans with flour, tapping out excess.

In the bowl of a stand mixer or a large bowl, Working in the butterwhisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the softened butter and cut the butter into the dry ingredients at low speed using the paddle attachment or a handheld mixer (mixture will be uniform and sandy). Add eggs and beat well, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary; add milk and vanilla, beat until just combined.

Divide batter between pans; smooth tops with an offset spatula. Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted into centers comes out clean, 33-35 minutes. Cool in pans on wire racks 15 minutes. Turn out cakes onto racks to cool completely. Serve with one of the berry toppings below or as desired.

*Blueberry-Maple Compote
Serves 6-8

2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozenButter Cake with Blueberry-Maple Compote
1 teaspoon corn starch
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/4-1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Combine first five ingredients (blueberries through salt) in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until some of the blueberries burst and mixture thickens slightly. Remove from heat; add vanilla and lemon juice to taste. Serve warm or chilled.

*Macerated Strawberries
Serves 4-6

1 pound hulled strawberries, whole or sliced, fresh or frozenButter Cake with Macerated Strawberries
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
pinch of salt

If using fresh berries: combine all ingredients in a non-reactive bowl and allow to sit at room temperature for about an hour. If using frozen berries: combine all ingredients in a non-reactive bowl and allow to sit at room temperature until berries have softened (about 4 hours).


Don’t miss

Variety: It’s the Spice!



Sunday, September 24th, at 4:00pm

St. Andrews Presbyterian Church
1890 Lincoln Road


Admission is free.
Freewill offering for Northwest Michigan Supportive Housing &
Habitat For Humanity of Benzie County .

Lines & Spaces III

Lines and SpacesIn our second recipe collection in the Theme & Variations series, I decided we should explore the lines and spaces of the musical staff to uncover what savory surprises we can experience when we use simple ingredients to create a masterpiece.

Lines & Spaces

For the final variation in our Lines & Spaces series, we’ll stick with our vegetarian motif, but throw a few new twists into the taste. Swapping out the greens with some colorful beans and aromatic veggies, next we’ll take out the familiar ricotta cheese and replace it with nutty, creamy fontina for a lasagna like no other.

Key ingredientKEY INGREDIENT: Fontina Cheese — Noted for its nutty, earthy, slightly mushroomy taste, this creamy cow’s milk cheese originally from Italy is right at home in a homespun vegetarian lasagna. You can find it in the fine cheeses case in your supermarket. The best Fontina is Fontina Val D’Aosta (the original fontina), but there are many makers of good fontina, so feel free to use what you like best and is easiest to find. Can’t find Fontina? Try shredding Raclette or thinly sliced Brie or Camembert for an equally cheesy experience.



Lasagna con Fagioli
Serves 4
Not quite as tomato-y or as saucy as the typical lasagna, the earthy flavors of the beans and fontina cheese are what really stand out to make this a vegetarian lasagna worth coming back to over and over again! Feel free to mix varieties of beans together for a more colorful presentation.

1 15-ounce can cannellini beans or red kidney beans, drained and rinsedLasagna con fagioli
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3/4 cup finely chopped carrots (app. 2 medium)
1/3 cup finely chopped celery (app. 1 large rib)
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
3/4 cup white wine (try sauvignon blanc)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes with juices
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Salt & Pepper to taste
6 ounces Fontina cheese, shredded
8 no-boil lasagna noodles

Preheat oven to 375-degrees. In a medium bowl, mash half beans together to form a thick paste. Reserve the mashed beans separately from the whole beans.

Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-heat. Add the onions, carrots, and celery; cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the minced garlic, bay leaf, and thyme; cooking, stirring constantly, until fragrant (about a minute). Pour in the wine, scraping the bottom of the pan to deglaze; cook until wine has nearly evaporated. Stir in the tomatoes (including juices), bring to a simmer; lower heat, cover and cook 7-10 minutes until carrots are tender. Stir in the mashed beans and 1/3 cup water; stirring to dissolve thicken the sauce. Remove from the heat, discard bay leaf; stir in parsley, reserved whole beans, and salt and pepper to taste.

Spread 1/2 cup bean sauce in the bottom of an 8-inch square baking dish. Top with 2 lasagna noodles, a fourth of the sauce, and a fourth of the shredded fontina. Repeat layering with remaining noodles, sauce, and cheese. Loosely cover with parchment-lined foil (keeps the cheese from sticking to the foil!). Bake 30 minutes. Uncover and bake until bubbly and delightfully browned, about 15 minutes. Let cool 20 minutes, then slice and serve.

Variety: It’s the Spice!

Our concert on September 24th is going to be a celebration of musical variety — a daring departure from organization and the expected! Not only is everything on the program a secret, but even the musicians don’t know the order the concert will be performed in.

Ordinarily, we use articles in our Manitou-Zine to fill you in on what will be performed in upcoming programs — insight into the composers who wrote the music, their inspiration for the pieces, and descriptions of what you can expect to hear. For Variety: It’s the Spice!, you’ll get none of that! It’s a complete surprise!

Variety Poster

But, since we don’t want to leave you completely in the dark, we’ve promised to provide you with a few clues along the way. The concert order will be decided by audience members participating in a game. Following that same logic, the clues we’re providing you will be in the form of a game: a crossword puzzle!

Click HERE for your free printable crossword puzzle!

Stay tuned to our Facebook Page & this website; we’ll be sharing the puzzle’s key soon.

crossword clues

Our kudos to anyone who can complete the puzzle without consulting Google (or a member of Manitou Winds!). No cheating! So, put on those thinking caps and see if you can guess a few of the pieces on September’s program!

Lines & Spaces II

Lines and SpacesIn our second recipe collection in the Theme & Variations series, I decided we should explore the lines and spaces of the musical staff to uncover what savory surprises we can experience when we use simple ingredients to create a masterpiece.

Lines & Spaces

Our first variation spins our lines and spaces in a brand new, green direction — replacing meat with leafy Swiss chard and coarsely chopped onions for a lighter lasagna that still delivers the warm-fuzzies we all expect from comfort food.

Key ingredientKEY INGREDIENT: Swiss Chard — With an earthy, non-bitter taste, the greens and colorful stems of Swiss chard add nutrition and deep flavor that plays so well with tomato sauce, you won’t miss the meat! If you buy frozen greens, be sure to defrost and squeeze them dry before putting them into the skillet. Can’t find Swiss chard? You can substitute equal amounts of spinach or kale to get a slightly different flavor profile, but an equally tasty dish.


Swiss Chard Lasagna
Serves 4
Easily one of my favorite ways to eat leafy greens! Remember to squeeze dry frozen greens before adding them to the recipe. If you’re using fresh greens, you’ll want to keep the chopped stems separate so you can saute them first to make sure they’re tender before adding in the greens to wilt.

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Swiss Chard Lasagna1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 pound Swiss chard, stems and leaves separated, thinly sliced
Coarse salt and pepper
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
1 can (28 ounces) whole peeled plum tomatoes with juices
8 no-boil lasagna noodles
8 oz whole-milk or part-skim mozzarella, shredded

Preheat oven to 375-degrees. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons oil, onion, and chard stems. Cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 4 minutes. Stir in chard leaves, season with salt, and cook until tender, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Wipe skillet; return to medium-high heat. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil, garlic, and pepper flakes. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes with juices and simmer; simmer, breaking into pieces, until thickened, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Spread 1/2 cup tomato sauce in the bottom of an 8-inch square baking dish. Top with 2 lasagna noodles, 3/4 cup sauce, one-third of chard mixture, and 1 cup cheese. Repeat layering twice. Top with remaining noodles, sauce, and cheese. Loosely cover with parchment-lined foil (keeps the cheese from sticking to the foil!). Bake 30 minutes. Uncover and bake until bubbly and delightfully browned, about 15 minutes. Let cool 20 minutes, then slice and serve.

Lines & Spaces I

Lines & Spaces

Within the five lines and four spaces of a staff, a composer creates all manner of beauty and complexity. Everything the composer wants to communicate to both the musician and the audience is condensed into the staves on the page. Whether summoning all the colors of a full orchestra or the singular artistry of a solo instrument; it’s all contained within those lines and spaces.

Lines and Spaces

For our second Theme & Variations recipe collection, we take our cue from the staff to make a delicious composition of our own in the kitchen using everyone’s favorite comfort food as our theme: lasagna!

Today’s recipe is what most people imagine when they think of lasagna: layers of hearty meat sauce alternating with luscious lasagna noodles and a tempting mixture of cheeses. It’s a recipe with a fancy look but humble origins — you can find everything you need in almost any grocery store (some of it’s probably already in your kitchen!).

Key ingredientKEY INGREDIENT: No-Boil Lasagna Noodles — Homemade lasagna doesn’t get more convenient than a package of no-boil lasagna sheets. Unlike the traditional lasagna noodles which need to be par-cooked before you layer them into the casserole dish, no-boil or “oven-ready” noodles can go right into the casserole dish. They cook while the casserole bakes, absorbing liquid and flavors from everything around them. Barilla is probably the brand easiest to spot.


Classic Lasagna
Serves 4
Unlike traditional lasagna recipes with pre-boiled noodles filling a gigantic pan of sauce and cheese to meld together in the oven, this smaller four-serving casserole goes into the oven with very little babysitting required. The hardest part is letting it cool for 20 minutes before digging in.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oilClassic Lasagna
8 ounces mild Italian sausage, casings removed (or 8 ounces lean ground beef or turkey)
1 large onion, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 14.5-ounce cans whole tomatoes with juice
salt and pepper
8 ounces whole or part-skim ricotta cheese
1 large egg
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (plus more for garnish)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
8 ounces part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded (divided)
8 no-boil lasagna noodles

Preheat oven to 375-degrees. Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until just shimmering. Add the Italian sausage; cook and crumble until evenly browned and no pink remains. Using a slotted spoon, remove crumbled sausage to a plate. To the skillet, add the onion; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and just beginning to brown. Add the garlic, oregano, and thyme; cook, stirring, just until fragrant (about 30 seconds). Add the canned tomatoes, scraping the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Stir and crush the tomatoes into mixture; bring to a low boil and allow to simmer for 5-10 minutes until slightly thickened; season with salt and pepper to taste. Set sauce aside to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, egg, parsley, grated Parmesan, and half of the mozzarella. Season to Classic Lasagnataste with salt and pepper.

Spread 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce in the bottom of an 8-inch square baking dish. Top with 2 lasagna noodles centered in the dish (the noodles will expand quite a bit during cooking and cover all the way to the edges). Spread 1/3 of the ricotta mixture atop the noodles and top with 1/3 of the remaining sauce. Repeat layers with the remaining noodles, cheese, and sauce. Top the entire casserole with the reserved shredded mozzarella cheese and additional chopped parsley as desired. Loosely cover with parchment then top with foil to seal (keeps the cheese from sticking to the foil!). Bake 30 minutes. Uncover and bake until bubbly and slightly browned on top, about 15 minutes more. Let cool 20 minutes, then slice and serve.

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